Ivan Altunin

Research Experience Director

Staff Scientist

Altunin Image.jpeg

Ivan Altunin enjoys everything and anything that is not on the ground – from astronomy to flying, to SCUBA diving. He is a member of the UC Berkeley undergrad class of ’24 and plans to major in Astrophysics and Computer Science with his main interest being in cosmology. His current research experience includes the areas of exoplanets, double stars, eclipsing binaries, and microlensing. In his free time, you can find him SCUBA diving near his home in Lake Tahoe as a certified rescue diver or soaring up above holding both a glider and powered private pilot’s license (Real pilots need no engines!).
An updated list of publications can be found here:


Reed Estrada

Staff Scientist


Former B-52 pilot, current Northrop Test Pilot working at Edwards Air Force Base, CA. Treasurer for the Institute for Student Astronomical Research. MBA in Airline Management, MS in Engineering, BS in microbiology, as well as several other Engineering and Aviation degrees.  Worked with telescopes and amateur astronomy for 30 years including many projects with and Russ Genet and the Fairborn Institute. 

Rachel Freed

Staff Scientist

Director of Education

Rachel at Mt Wilson.jpg

Rachel Freed is a co-founder and the President of the Institute for Student Astronomical Research with a goal of incorporating scientific research into high school and undergraduate education. She is currently working on a Ph.D. in astronomy education. She is also a faculty lecturer in the School of Education at Sonoma State University, with a B.S. degree in Biology and an M.S. in Neuroscience. Rachel taught high school chemistry and astronomy for 10 years and has conducted research on chemistry education. She has been an amateur astronomer for over 20 years and is involved in public outreach. She has been a volunteer docent at the Robert Ferguson Observatory in Sonoma County for 13 years. She is also the editor of the Journal of Double Star Observations and on the board of the Advanced Imaging Conference. Rachel’s work focuses on promoting changes in education that build on students’ intrinsic motivations and interests.

Russ Genet

Staff Scientist

Co Director


Russ is the Co Director of the Fairborn Institute and a Research Scholar in Residence at California Polytechnic State University. He developed rocket guidance systems in the early days of the space age. An instrument-rated commercial pilot and instructor, he pioneered the development of networked flight simulators for training fighter pilots. Russ pioneered the development of robotic telescopes and automated observatories in the 1980s. He initiated the Astronomy Research Seminars in 2001 which, to date, have produced over 200 published papers coauthored primarily by high school and undergraduate students. The Fairborn Institute’s robotic telescope is used almost nightly by remotely located students for their published research. Russ’ research on cosmic evolution—the synthesis of physical, biological, and cultural evolution—was summarized in his 2007 book, Humanity: The Chimpanzees Who Would Be Ants. Russ lives in the Arizona mountains with his wife, Cheryl, who teaches philosophy and world religions. Russ has a BS degree in Electrical Engineering and a Ph.D. in Astronomy.

Daniel (Dan) Gray

Telescope Engineer

Staff Scientist

President Sidereal Technology


Early 1980's:
Stepper control of routers using Z80 microprocessor and component level by polar stepper drivers

Early 90's:
Micro Stepper control of telescopes, with goto and tracking

1987 to present (founding partner and owner of Technical Marine Service Inc)
Involved in Industrial controls including component scale electronics, industrial computers and controllers, PID controls, etc

Created our (still for sale) Servo I controller, and founded Sidereal Technology

2005 to present
Created the ServoII, ForceOne and ForceTwo telescope controllers
Created and continuing to develop software for controlling telescope mounts, focusers, rotators, cameras etc.
Porting software for use with Linux versions, etc.
Installation of telescope control systems on professional telescopes around the world

Richard Harshaw

Educational Advisor


    Richard holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Education (Mathematics/Physics) from Central Missouri State University where he graduated in 1973.  
    Born and raised in Missouri, he now resides in Cave Creek, Arizona (a suburb of Phoenix).
   His exploits in astronomy began 60 years ago when he purchased a second-hand 60mm alt-azimuth refractor from a friend.  Over the years, he worked his way up to a 4.5” reflector, then an 8-inch SCT, and his present scope, an 11-inch SCT.  His main interest is speckle interferometry of close double stars.  But he is also an avid galaxy hunter and enjoys star clusters and planetary nebulae.  
   He has had several articles on double stars published in journals and has a book published by Springer Publishing, the Complete CD Guide To The Universe, released late in 2006.  He has also contributed about 6,000 measurements of double stars to the Washington Double Star Catalog (his observer code is HSW).  He is presently working on speckle interferometry on extremely close binaries, having done observing runs at Kitt Peak National Observatory near Tucson, AZ, The Discovery Telescope in Happy Jack, AZ, the 100-inch Hooker Telescope at Mt. Wilson Observatory in Los Angeles, and other observatories.
   Richard was an active member of the Astronomical Society of Kansas City for many years and served three terms on the Board of Directors. He was a key holder for the Society’s 30-inch Ruisinger Reflector in Louisburg, KS, and frequently presented pro-grams at Powell, public events, and the general meetings.
   In Phoenix, Arizona, he joined the Saguaro Astronomy Club and served two years as its president and the newsletter editor and Secretary.
   Asteroid 2000 EF116 was named for him (26586 Harshaw) by the Catalina Sky Survey team.
   From his backyard (Montevista Observatory), he frequently observes double stars (over 26,000 now logged) and brighter deep-sky objects under reasonably dark suburban skies.

Amber Mistry


Staff Scientist


Amber Mistry is someone who loves to see and learn things from different perspectives, regardless if she's looking far out into the universe or whats at her feet. Amber is a current senior at Oxbridge Academy. She will be joining Georgia Tech’s Class of ’25 and is looking to major in mechanical engineering. Her current research experience includes double stars and RR Lyrae. Amber also has experience in computer science with multiple languages. In her free time, she loves playing or watching soccer (football), learning random facts, and earning the title of a foodie. 

Current Publication:


Sophia Risin

Co Director

Screen Shot 2021-11-14 at 10.00.27 PM.png

Sophia Risin is a student at Stanford Online High School and interested in trying to understand the universe from both a philosophical and astrophysical perspective. Her current research experience includes exoplanets, double stars, and photocenter astrometry. She also serves as the logistics director for the STEAMpark teen board and tutors students locally. She is a National Center for Women and Information Technology certificate of distinction winner and  In her free time, she enjoys spending time with friends, going on walks with her dogs, and learning new things.

Current publications:


David Rowe

Chief Technical Officer

Staff Scientist

David Rowe.JPG

David Rowe studied physics and mathematics in college, with emphasis on astronomical research. He started an electronics research company, SMI, in 1989 with two partners, where he was the Chief Technology Officer and Chief Engineer. The company developed integrated circuits for GPS, fiber optics, microwave radios and radars. David then joined Planewave Instruments where he is currently their CTO and optical systems designer. He is the author of TraceXP, PlateSolve, PointXP, Speckle Tool Box, GDS and other software programs for optical testing and image data reduction. His current interests include precision astrometry and high etendue optical systems.

Thomas C. Smith

Staff Scientist



Thomas C. Smith joined the US Navy in 1974 and entered the Enlisted Nuclear Power Program as a Machinist Mate. He served 13 years on two different types of nuclear submarines and taught operational nuclear prototypes to students and senior staff instructors, being awarded Master Training Specialist. Leaving the Navy in 1987 as a Chief Machinist Mate he began work at Diablo Canyon Power Plant near San Luis Obispo, California retiring after 20 years having worked 10 years as a Maintenance Foreman and 10 years in the Information Technology Department as a Senior Computer Applications Programmer.

He writes: I have been keen on astronomy since seeing a comet with my father in the mid-60’s from Albuquerque, NM. My love for astronomy was reignited in 1989 following naval service when I joined the Central Coast Astronomical Society (CCAS) in San Luis Obispo, California. I began scientific research of eclipsing binary stars in 2003. I built my first observatory in 2004 and almost immediately began making astronomy observations and presentations to schools, senior’s organizations, the public, and the astronomy club along with writing astronomical papers and giving presentations at astronomy conferences such as the American Astronomical Society (AAS) and Society for Astronomical Sciences (SAS). I have been a member of the ASP for a short time, a member of SAS since 2005, and a member of the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO) since 2007. I was voted an honorary member of the Texas Astronomical Society (TAS). I have provided guidance to many University, Junior College, and High School students in observing techniques, astronomical software, research equipment fabrication, data reductions and analysis for presentations and publication in such as the Journal of the American Association of Variable Star Observers (JAAVSO), SAS proceedings, Journal of Double Star Observations (JDSO) and others. I built, installed and operate the American Association of Variable Star Observers Photometric All-Sky Survey (APASS) systems with Dr. Arne Henden (Director, AAVSO) at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO) as well as a duplicate system at my Dark Ridge Observatory in New Mexico. The APASS photometric data have been included in the US Naval Observatory’s UCAC4 catalog. I assisted Chandra X-ray Space Telescope E/PO as an Educational Resource Agent working with Tufts University.